As Disney heroines go, Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald)—the first lead female protagonist in a Pixar joint—is all hair. Her long, flowing crimson locks would make redheads from Lucille Ball to Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme quake with envy, and the animators behind this pedestrian medieval-era fantasy have clearly labored to get every strand to behave with uncannily true-to-life accuracy. Would that there were more beyond the coif, but Merida is merely a dull amalgam of modern Mouse House idiosyncrasies: plucky, rebellious and action-figure ready thanks to her ever-present bow and arrows. She’s also so not down with the traditions, sanctioned by her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), that go with the regal lifestyle.
Her Royal Highness is nonplussed by the princess’s radical notions. (Marry for love instead of having your hand won by a suitor?!? Ridiculous!) So is it any shock that when Merida finds herself in the presence of a wood-carving enchantress, she wishes the Queen into a, shall we say, bear of a predicament? What follows the casting of this semideadly spell is a lot of slapstick running around through stunningly detailed Scottish locations—most impressive is a foggy forest populated by ephemeral will-o’-the-wisps. Along the way, both mother and daughter attempt to undo the sorcery, learn some valuable life lessons and go horseback riding to a you-go-gals power ballad by Mumford & Sons. Ick. This isn’t the NASCAR-fellating cash grab that is the Cars franchise, but it’s still Pixar on preachy autopilot.
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